Category Archives: Farming

The Fourth Month

Today, May 24th, marks my fourth month in the Philippines, specifically in Isabela my home province.  Although four months is nothing compared on how time flies in the States, it does feel so much longer here.  Thankfully, we have internet to keep me sane and keeps me connected to San Francisco at any given day or night.  Being 7,000 miles away is not really that bad when you’re logged on your Facebook.  Looking back from the moment I have embarked on that plane to the long trip from Manila to Isabela, I can pretty much say that I’m a very fortunate fella to have a place to go home to sans rent (just do chores), to have hardworking and loving parents around that pretty much leave you alone on your business, and to have a the world on my hand and the freedom to discover new places, new things and new friends.

Just for the sake of celebrating this sentiment, here are some selected photos and some random thoughts collected from the last four months.


Flying home in style–Mabuhay class (the classless class). What could be more apt than Philippine Airlines non-stop from SFO to MNL? I dined and finished their stock of Courvoisier and opted for San Miguel beer to pacify my crying soul.

In the plane enroute Manila from San Francisco, I drowned my mixed emotions with PAL’s stock of Courvoisier.  I dined well and the attendants very gracious and super hospitable–it didn’t even feel like a flight.  Or maybe because my emotions were so f*cked up and I wasn’t really paying attention on anything else.  Parting was never an easy thing especially after 20 years.  Suddenly, I was off to my new life just like that.  I took my sweater and stuffed it in my mouth, put a pillow on my face and held it tight.  I wailed.  I screamed.  I felt better but never really shook off that feeling until now.

Sometimes, I miss a lot of things about my former home but, I cannot deny that my heart aches for being so far away from my good friends, my brother Paul, his wife Junko, and my little boy (nephew), Paulo.

Paulo Suzuki Ventura

My existence is for this little guy. He’s the sweetest thing in my life.

Oh, and don’t get me started with the dining scene that doesn’t really exist here in Isabela!  I miss having a social sidekick.

Dining, wining, touring, complaining, moving... name it, we do it!

Cocoy Butter and Kanoa Oyl. Dining, wining, touring, complaining, moving… name it, we do it!

And I miss my job.  I miss Maria, Dado et al… and the greatest kitchen/dining team in the world!

Dignitary Dinner 080 cocoy ventura event-36


But then, as per the Bouvier ladies:

Edith B. Beale Jr.:
You can’t have your cake and eat it, too in life.

Edith Bouvier Beale:
Oh yes I did. I did, I had my cake, loved it, masticated it, chewed it and had everything I wanted.

I had my cake in San Francisco and now, I have a different cake–it’s a rice cake!  When I miss people, places and junk, I just have to remember what’s here in Isabela and I’m always given a sense of purpose.

2.22.14kidsfarm 025mangosorting 013 bagoongfarmkids 069

There are lots of happy and grateful kids and many, many new friends, we have tons of Philippine mangoes and I have happy parents.


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The Generous Tamarind Tree

Couple days ago a family of tamarind harvesters asked my mother if they could harvest our tamarind fruits.  They’d buy the fruits but they’d also climb the tree.  It’s a family of 6–the parents plus 4 children.  The oldest child in tow, about 12 years old is also a tree climber like his father.  The rest of the kids are 6, 5 and a 2-year old.


The harvesters climbed the 40′ tree so effortlessly.  And because the fruits are mostly at the end of the branches, they had to go as close as possible at the end of the branches.

magoes,tamarind,kids 076 (533x800)           magoes,tamarind,kids 037 (800x533)


They harvested about 2 large sacks.

magoes,tamarind,kids 045


They only took the green tamarind and left us the ripe ones.  The following day, there were just too much sampalok and I didn’t want to give them away.  So, I made jam.

tamarind jam

Here’s how to make the sampalok jam:



2 kilos ripe tamarind, peeled and deveined

1 liter filtered water

1 1/2 kilos washed sugar

1 tbsp sea salt


Braise cleaned tamarind until pulp has disintegrated.  Using a strainer with large holes (colander is ok), ladle solid tamarind particles and push through sieve.  Discard solids.  All these can be done over the pot/kawali/vat.  Over medium heat, add sugar and salt, stir and reduce until mixture covers the back of the spoon.  Mixture should just be right–not too thick, not too runny.  When jam cools down, it’ll become thicker.

Pour hot tamarind jam directly from the stove to clean canning jars or any contraption you may want to store this in.  Pasteurization is necessary if you’re planning on storing this for a year–just follow canning instructions.  Otherwise, keep it on a tight-lid container and store in the fridge.   Enjoy with a piece of toast or a hot pandesal, or as an accoutrement for Manchego slices.

When life gives you tamarinds, make a sensational Sampalok Jam!

sampalokjam 019



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Ginger Delegation

It’s been a very busy few days–between construction work at home, farm, commercial food photoshoots, and a visit from the Ginger delegation–people who are experts in growing ginger.  Of course, I made lunch and just made the best of what we got in the backyard–practically.  Just let me know if anyone’s interested in the recipe of these items.

Things are coming along  just fine.  I’m here in the Philippines for a reason and it’s now slowly unfolding.  Ecstatic, anxious and excited, there’s so much work ahead, good for the mind, body and spirit.  Cheers to a bright, gingery future!

Flame-Broiled Okra & Sweet Peppers with Dry Farmed Tomatoes, Native Yellow Ginger, Tagalog Onions, Calamansi Dressing

Flame-Broiled Okra & Sweet Peppers with Dry Farmed Tomatoes, Native Yellow Ginger, Tagalog Onions, Calamansi Dressing

Patani (fragrant lima beans), tender yam leaves,  ginger, red onions, Ilocandia dressing

Patani (fragrant lima beans), tender yam leaves, ginger, red onions, Ilocandia dressing

Freshly caught first thing

Freshly caught first thing

Malunggay (moringa) fruits, sweet peppers, local kabocha, okra, pork, ginger braised in coconut cream

Malunggay (moringa) fruits, sweet peppers, local kabocha, okra, pork, ginger braised in coconut cream

2011 Artesa Chardonnay, Limited Release

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Wisdom of the Mangoes






My father has a mango grove and now that I’m dealing one-on-one with our mangoes, I’ve somewhat learned to understand the profound wisdom of the bearing cycle of a mango tree.  Trees can teach us so much, just like these mango trees–it has shown me that in order to have a successful life, a victor will fight through tough sequential elements and immense internal pressure.

When a mango tree starts blossoming, it will blossom profusely and ever so fragrantly.  To walk through a fully-blossomed tree is to encounter countless flying insects—definitely not as romantic as a cherry tree in full bloom.  There, pollination in full action, making sure all flowers are fertilized triggered by nature.

Then, just a few days after, most of the blossoms will fall off, as well as the nasty sap it’ll shower the ground. Just make sure you don’t park your car under the tree for you will regret it.  At this point, there will be just a few fertilized flowers on the stalks.  And, if it rains, there are much more flowers to fall off.

Then budding of fruits occur.  Throughout the development of the fruit, some will continually fall off the branches naturally.  From tiny to large, developed fruits will also fall leaving the blossoming stalk–that once were a profusion of blossom and fruit buds–with now only fruits that could be counted with just one hand.  It’s natural selection at its best.

When quasi-matured green mango fruits fall off, it’s picked off the ground and made into some salad.  The green fruit is the epitome of pressure. As soon as it is peeled, instantaneously, the crunchy flesh would crack open–as if it was a genuine relief to break free from its rind.  For every green mangoes I’ve peeled, they have always cracked with a loud crunch.  From there, I’ve concluded that a green mango holds so much pressure in order to maintain that compact, dense flesh.  By keeping the pressure inside the fruit, when it ripens, it’ll reward you with its succulent, fine and complex texture with a concentration of sweetness and utter explosion of indescribable flavors only your palette and heart will know how to explain, because there are no words in human language to describe its true taste.

The mango tree teaches me to live through the tough elements of life in order to ripen with elegance and profound quality.

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